Experiencing an installation at the Clark County Government Center’s Rotunda is high drama. Walking the long curving hallway from the front entrance to the heart of the building, just a glimpse of the art is visible. It’s a slow build to the big reveal.
The crescendo is more than just architectural. Sculpture is easily swallowed by the epic scale of the massive and beautiful room. The Rotunda has consistently featured some of the best sculpture Vegas has to offer, in part because artists stretch themselves to find solutions to the challenges of the space.
Every exhibition is a surprise, and none more so than Chad Brown’s Those We Call Century, the Government Center’s current exhibition. Brown raises the stakes to breathtaking heights, literally and figuratively, and in the process, achieves one of the most successful uses of the space in recent memory.
Three large-scale replicas of agave plants define the Rotunda, their spiked green leaves emerging from heavy wooden bases. As objects, the plants have been reduced to a very structured essence, so the mechanical almost entirely replaces the organic. Thin reeds of wood form an elaborate framework for each individual leaf, which is then further defined by sheets of rice paper. The leaves have a dynamic planarity whether viewed individually or in clusters, elegantly straddling the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional.
- Those We Call Century
- Through May 20
- Clark County Government Center Rotunda
- 500 S. Grand Central Pkwy.
Towering in the center is a 37-foot replica of the flower of the agave plant. Intended to metaphorically celebrate the tenacity of the Vegas community, it careens into the nether regions of the cavernous ceiling. The sheer height of the space is often problematic, and Brown’s bold decision to utilize this dynamic verticality pays off.
Beyond the stunning height of the form is its terrific detail. Hundreds of small flowers, again made of rice paper, populate the monolithic stem. The use of the delicate paper allows for light to navigate haphazardly, bouncing on and around the surface of the sculpture. Brown’s decision to use paper and retain exposed raw wood gives the massive sculptures a delicate vulnerability against the slick reflective marble of the Rotunda’s open architecture.
In concert, the four objects are almost operatic in their rigid sincerity and command of the space.
Best known for his light-inflected oil paintings, Brown brings that same impeccable craftsmanship and attentive detail to his sculptural work. With Those We Call Century, Brown exceeds the expertise of his previous paintings with a generosity and joy that mark a significant progression for one of Vegas’ finest.